Illinois Democrats released new congressional boundaries Friday that could create a marquee southwest suburban showdown next year between Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger and Democratic Rep. Marie Newman — if he opts to remain in Congress.
It’s a sprawling new district that spans from near Midway Airport on the city’s Southwest Side all the way out to near Starved Rock State Park, and Newman late Friday expressed displeasure about the “retrogressive” way her party configured her potential new boundaries.
Downstate, incumbent Republicans Reps. Darin LaHood, of Peoria, and Mary Miller, of Oakland, are drawn in the same central Illinois district, pitting a moderate Republican against a far-right acolyte of former President Donald Trump.
The new boundaries create 14 Democratic-majority districts compared to only three Republican-majority districts, which could help U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her uphill struggle to retain control of her wing of Congress.
Under this draft, Democrats who now have a 13 to 5 majority within the state’s congressional slate could see a net gain of three seats. However, heading into what could be a big Republican mid-term election next year, nothing is certain for Illinois Democrats with this map.
Democratic officials stressed that the plan unveiled Friday is merely a preliminary version that is expected to undergo revisions before a final vote, possibly during the final week of the legislature’s upcoming six-day fall session that begins Tuesday.
“This proposal is an excellent first draft that amplifies diverse voices and gives every person in our state a say in government,” said Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, chair of the House Redistricting Committee.
“I look forward to ongoing discussion with members of the public, advocacy groups, and community organizations as we continue this effort to ensure our congressional boundaries reflect the diversity of this great state,” she said.
But Republicans were quick to pounce on the new partisan maps.
“Call this new Illinois map the Nancy Pelosi Protection Plan,” said Don Tracy, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. “It’s appalling that fair representation, keeping communities of interest together, and transparency in the mapmaking process in Illinois all had to take a back seat to the demands of national politics.”
The top House GOP leader also assailed what Democrats produced.
“In another insult to Illinois voters, Democrats drew more partisan maps to benefit their incumbent politicians and protect Nancy Pelosi’s failing majority,” Illinois Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said in a statement.
By far, the most intrigue associated with this version is the way in which the Democratic political cartographers crowded Kinzinger and Newman into the same district, which snakes from Midway Airport to LaSalle, some 85 miles away.
It includes a chunk of Republican-leaning, rural areas, and Newman was the lone Democrat to criticize the new political turf she could be handed.
“While our team continues to review the draft congressional map that was released earlier today, it is abundantly apparent that what has currently been proposed for Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District is not only retrogressive but substantially diminishes the diverse and progressive voices of Chicago’s Southwest Side and suburbs,” she said.
“I know that [the district’s] constituents will ensure their voices are heard loud and clear at these public hearings over the coming days,” Newman said.
Kinzinger, who has emerged as a leader of the GOP’s anti-Trump faction, has been mentioned as a potential gubernatorial opponent to Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker or to U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth.
Because of his anti-Trump advocacy, Kinzinger arguably has the best standing among Democrats of any Illinois congressman and could create an unexpected challenge to Newman, who defeated longtime Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski in 2020. That is, if he chooses to run.
“I have proudly served six terms in the U.S. House and it has been an honor to do so,” Kinzinger said in a statement Friday morning. “Following the release of the new congressional maps for Illinois, my team and I will spend some time looking them over and reviewing all of the options, including those outside the House.
“This redistricting process has been anything but transparent, which comes as no surprise to anyone,” he said. “I believe the people of Illinois deserve better.”
Newman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Another potential 2022 statewide candidate, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, was given his own district under Friday’s draft.
Statewide, three of the new congressional districts — all on the city’s west and south sides — are Black-majority while one district is Latino-majority, according to a demographic breakdown of voting-age population provided by Democrats. That tally of districts that are Black or Latino-majority would be the same as the current make-up.
The party looked to secure their hold on the far northwestern seat being vacated by retiring Democratic U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos by including Democratic-friendly swaths of Rockford in that district.
The party is also proposing an entirely new, Democratic-majority congressional district downstate that stretches from Champaign to East St. Louis, loosely following the paths of Interstates 72 and 55. There is no incumbent drawn into that district.
One nationally-respected elections forecaster suggested three of the new districts drawn by Democrats could swing to the GOP next year, particularly if Republicans post heavy mid-term gains next year.
“This Dem 14D-3R gerrymander is both uglier *and* less effective than I’d have expected,” said David Wasserman, senior editor with The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter.
Wasserman said Democrats could see losses in the new 3rd Congressional District now held by Newman, the 14th Congressional District held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood and the open 17th Congressional District now held by Bustos.
“All of these seats are potentially flippable in a good midterm for Rs,” he tweeted.